The Subaru Brumby, a coupe utility, or by its acronym in the US, BRAT: Bi-drive Recreational All-terrain Transporter, was produced between 1978 and 1993. The Subaru Brumby used the base of the 4x4 Subaru Leone station wagon for its construction and came about at the request of the president of Subaru America.
It was developed in the time before true 4x4 utility family cars and when most mini pickup trucks were designed for commercial use. As the Ute market developed in the 1990s, the popularity of the Brumby diminished and it lost its appeal.
Despite losing their motoring appeal as new cars, they certainly hold up as second-hand or older second cars. In fact, the Brumby just keeps going no matter how many kilometres are on the clock. With regular servicing and maintenance, they seem indestructible, and there are plenty of owners who report no major problems despite putting the vehicle through over 500,000 km worth of use.
Probably the most famous owner was ex-president Ronald Reagan who used it to tour his ranch in Santa Barbara. The ranch, now owned by the Young American�s Foundation, managed to purchase the original Ute used by the president to include as part of its exhibition.
All models of the Brumby were four-wheel drive, with the early models fitted with a 1.6L EA-71 engine. After 1981, they were equipped with the larger 1.8L EA-81 drivetrains. The transmissions were 4-speed manual, except for the later models that were fitted with a turbocharger. This had the option of being fitted with a 3-speed automatic gearbox that was equipped with a push button to alternate between two- and four-wheel drive.
The Brumby�s 1.6L Boxer engine had a limited 50kW of power but was capable of producing 110Nm of torque. When the 4WD was engaged, it gave the car plenty of traction and an acceptable level of power across country. This was somewhat loud, and drivers and other road users were not likely to miss the Brumby as it sat at traffic lights.
The Brumby�s great combination of a sufficiently powerful engine and transmission with an all-wheel drive system that had a responsive, fully independent suspension made it a hit with Ute fans throughout the country. Its engine was a little underpowered for normal road use, but across rough terrain, the Brumby came into its own. This could also be its undoing as drivers pushed the relatively low slung vehicle beyond its capabilities, leading to damage on the underside.
Its performance on normal road surfaces was adequate, but with an unloaded rear, it had a tendency to exhibit unwieldy characteristics, with plenty of under and oversteer likely. It was, however, able to get to 100 km/h in 8.6 seconds and had a fuel consumption level of 11.3 litres/100km.
The Brumby came in a glittering array of 11 colours, from black to spice brown. There were two trims, but the only real difference was in the headlights, with the DL fitted with a single headlamp rig and the higher spec GL sporting two extra quad lights up front. In every other respect, the models were the same.
Both models of this small Ute had cabins more attuned with family cars than commercial vehicles. Along with their 400kg holding rear, they rapidly gained favour with farmers as a comfortable but durable workhorse-like vehicle.
Design changes came about with the release of the 1984 Brumby when it appeared with a more distinctive honeycomb front grille and a square headlamp design.
The Brumby Sport came with twin halo moon roofs, square halogen headlamps, and parking lights on the rear bumper. The Special, released in 1988, was fitted with bull bars, cassette radio, tow bar, and tonneau cover to protect the rear cargo area.
The Ford Ranchero and Chevrolet El Camino were the original rivals and the reason for the development of the Subaru Brumby. Later Brumby versions were lined up against the Toyota Hilux and Holden Rodeo.
The Subaru Brumby, properly looked after and serviced, is pretty much indestructible, and despite having a great number of kilometres on the clock, it should still perform with gusto. It�s always worth checking out the underside as they are prone to receiving some punishment by unwary drivers. In the main, they are a great little second-hand buy for someone looking for an all-wheel drive Ute with a decent carrying capacity and proven off-road reliability.